He’d been betrayed by one he’d served, then by one he loved deeply–his own son. Would he become bitter? Feed his wounds with negative thinking until they festered into a darkened heart?

I’ve been following the life of King David, from the time he slew his first giant, Goliath, to when the most destructive giant of all, sin, almost slew him. And as I read, one question dominates my thoughts: what must it have felt like to have your son turn on you? Not just turn on you, but raise up an army against you? That had to hurt deeply, deeply enough to lead to all sorts of anger and bitterness, if David let it.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe someone you love deeply, someone you’ve trusted completely, has betrayed you. Betrayal hurts, but it doesn’t have to destroy us.

DSC_8889Today Katie Clark, author of Vanquished, shares some tips on forgiveness.

(For those of you participating in the Beyond I Do Bible study, visit Beth Farley’s blog tomorrow for lesson two.)

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of her novel to one reader randomly selected in the comments left on this post. 

FORGIVE AND FORGET

By Katie Clark

It’s so easy to hold a grudge—especially when someone has truly, deeply wounded you. That feeling of hurt can last for days, months, years, and it can be especially hard around the holidays.

That is, unless you accept the all-encompassing forgiveness offered through Christ. Easier said than done? I don’t think so.

So, how does one do this? How does one forgive? Life is a struggle, and the process may be different for everyone, but here are a few tips that may help along the way.

  • Realize it is okay to forgive. I held a grudge against someone for a long time. I held the grudge because I thought that if I forgave, it meant I condoned what the person had done. On the day I realized that my forgiveness didn’t mean I agreed with that person’s choice, I felt like I had been set free!
  • Realize it’s healthy for you to forgive. Focusing on the anger is a sure way to neglect your other duties. Forgiveness allows you to go on with what God has intended for your life. Leave God to work on the other person’s heart.
  • Realize that prayer is your greatest weapon not your last resort. Pray for the person who has wronged you. Love the person who has wronged you. There is no surer way for your own joy to be restored.

And always remember that your Heavenly Father is full of mercy and love, as well as forgiveness toward you. He loved you so much He sent his Son to be born in a lowly manger. May we all live to emulate Him!

Katie Clark has been telling stories since she was seven years old. When she grew up and realized people liked hearing the stories, well, she was hooked. She spends her days telling tales to her two wee daughters, and she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Katie’s published works include her upcoming YA novel, Vanquished, the first book in the Enslaved series, as well as numerous children’s books. You can connect with her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Vanquished_ws11576_680Vanquished:

When Hana’s mom is diagnosed with the mutation, she is denied the medication that might save her life. Fischer, a medic at the hospital, implies there are people who can help—except Hana’s not sure she can trust him; Fischer is involved in a religious group, and religion has been outlawed for the last hundred years. Hana embarks on a dangerous journey, seeking the answers Fischer insists are available. When the truth is uncovered does Hana stick to what she knows? Or does she join the rebellion, taking a stand against an untrustworthy society?

Buy it here!

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Is there someone you need to forgive? As you read today’s post, did one person come to mind? Forgiveness rarely comes easy, but it is necessary–for our own emotional and spiritual health. But we don’t have to forgive alone. God will give us the strength to daily turn our hurts over to Him, and in time, He will align our feelings to match. Because forgiveness is a choice, not an emotion. 

If you’ve walked through the valley of forgiveness and are now standing, emotionally free, on the other side, share your experience with us. Was it hard? Was it a battle you had to fight daily? How did God help you through it? Share your thoughts here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Other posts you might find helpful:

How to Trade Bitterness for Blessings

Taking a Stand to Forgive

Fighting to Forgiveness

Freedom in Forgiveness

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond Christmas

bethlehem-star-remix-2-695143-m

I’m the queen of distraction. I easily get caught up in the tinsel and carols and cinnamon smells of the season, but this year God used a squirrel-like husband and a box of old ornaments to center me in Him and the essence of Christmas. You can read more about that crazy yet emotional morning here.

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 (NIV)

Before there was time, the God-head envisioned His creation, a universe filled with radiant light as millions upon millions of stars glimmered throughout infinite space. The earth, now but a vision in the mind of God, would soon abound with life.

Ice-capped mountains would glisten in the sun and gently flowing streams would weave through flower-filled meadows. Jay Larks and Robins would fill the air with song while newborn cubs tumbled over grassy plains.

But the crown of His creation? The creature that brought a song to the Creator’s lips and tears of anguish to His face?

Man. Humans, just like you and I. People that would fight against Him at every turn and ultimate drive Him to the cross.
God made man, knowing man would betray Him. Knowing man’s rebellion would result in His death. And yet, He created humans anyway, molding flesh from a mound of earth, breathing life into a lifeless body.

The first man to be created was named Adam. In the beginning, God and Adam enjoyed sweet fellowship, an intimacy unparalleled by any other creature roaming the face of the earth. An intimacy that penetrated to the very depths of the soul.

Fear was unheard of.

Loneliness was unknown. Everything was bliss, like a melodious love song echoed in united hearts.

But then something happened and this heavenly union was shattered. The creature God had created, the creature God loved infinitely and immensely, turned on Him, and the perfect love-bond was broken.

Suddenly the child created to rest in His arms fought against Him, spurning the very love scream-924206-mthat would save Him.

In the depths of man’s heart, bitterness took root, weaving its entangling web around everything that was once good and pure and lovely.

And all the while, God watched with breaking heart, knowing the day of total restoration would come.
But it would cost Him everything.

His cross-church-1386416-mvery life.

Merry Christmas, my friend! And as you and your family unwrap your Christmas, pause to remember the Christmas story, from beginning to the glorious, victorious end.

Taking Hold of My Marbles!

Do you remember those nights when you bolted awake at every sniffle, whimper, or rustling sound your baby made?

The days when you wished naptimes were just a wee bit longer?naptime

When you wondered if you’d ever be able to spend five minutes alone, eat a meal uninterrupted, or get out of the house without five to ten potty breaks taken between the time you say, “Let’s go!” to the zip of a coat?

I do. And once the chaos calmed, I remeber wishing someone had told me those sleepless nights wouldn’t last forever. That there would be days when our house would be insanely, hauntingly quiet.

That our baby would grow up, grow independent, and the tables would flip.

No longer would she be following me around with arms raised, “Momma, hold me!”

Now I’m the one following her around, “Want to talk? How was your day? Can we…?”

My husband and I have less than two years before our princess launches into adulthood, moves away, and our relationship is relegated to phone calls, random texts, and the occasional family vacation.

In essence, we’re losing our marbles. This morning a dear friend and longtime mentor, SandyT, forwarded me the following: “Savor the Season

The words she sent reiterated a message God continues to pour into my heart, reminding me to make the most of the time I’ve been given, because it won’t last.

A couple of Sundays ago, our church played a video illustrating this truth. You can watch it here:

Playing For Keeps from Orange on Vimeo.

So, what will Steve and I do, to make the most of the marbles we have left?

We’ve decided to engage. To take the time and energy to schedule fun and silliness into our week. Yes, I said schedule, because if we don’t get intentional about how we use our time, it’ll get away from us.

girlscookingThis past Tuesday, I spent a few marbles for a girls night in. My house wasn’t spotless, the recipes weren’t perfect, and I didn’t have all those fancy cooking gadgets.

I had proposals and articles to write, ministry stuff to take care of, and laundry piling on the bed.

But I also had a kitchen, some random ingredients, and some special people to enjoy.

I suppose I could’ve allowed all those “didn’t/wasn’ts” to hinder my plans. But I chose not to.

Because I’ve only got so many marbles, and once they’re gone, well…

So I carved out a few hours and set aside my to-do list (as did my guests).

We made truffles and mini-cheesecakes, following recipes some, improvising girlssmooshingmore.

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There were lots of giggles and story-sharing.

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And a small chocolate battle. (Which I won!)Ashchoco

It took some planning, some preparing, and carving out a few hours of our evenings. But the pay-off was well worth it!

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Don’t lose your marbles, my friend! You’ve only got so many! And each one is a gift from God. How will you use the marbles you’ve been given? What are two things you plan to do this holiday season to make a memory? (Please note, if you do not have family nearby, you can still create a fun memory! Invite someone over for a baking or hot cocoa sipping day, or pop by a friend’s house with a Tim Hawkins’ video. 😉 )

Join the conversation here, in the comments below, or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Stockinged Feet

Parents, everything we do and say affects not only the atmosphere of our home and family relationships, but has the capacity to penetrate deep into our children’s hearts as well. At each moment, we are either building up or tearing down.

I don’t know about you, but things can get pretty frazzled in the Slattery arguing-440262-mhousehold, and there are days when it’s all I can do to keep myself in check. Throw no fits, burn no meals, start no arguments…

Honestly, 99% of the time, it comes down to a choice: Will I fight for my rights or die to myself, ecarole180ven if that means surrendering the last piece of apple pie?

Today Carole Brown is back with us sharing one of the most beautiful true life stories I have heard in some time.

Stockinged Feet by Carole Brown

Have you ever had an event unfold in front of your eyes that caused it to become a “Stick-in-your-mind” remembrance?

We were young–my husband and I–and in our second pastorate with two young sons. As any pastor and his family can tell you, pastoring can be either a blessing or a trial, in it’s own way and depending on the characters, emotions and personalities of all involved. This one was no different: the neighborhood was–uh, unique, the people, kind of what would be called as isolated, and the church located a distance away from our families.

One week. in our pastor-ish duties, we visited a couple a certain evening. Now my husband, Dan, has always set high standards of dress and neatness for himself so why on earth we would be visiting with him wearing work boots is something I definitely don’t remember.

But I do remember the remark the wife made as we entered. “Wish my husband could afford new boots.”

These were new boots, only we hadn’t bought them. Dan’s brother (for whatever reason) didn’t want them and passed them on to my husband, who was happy to get them. You learn to be especially thankful for every little blessing that comes your way when you’re pastoring!

My husband said nothing, but after we were seated, he bent over and unlaced the boots and calmly slipped his feet from them. The evening went on as if nothing had been said.

When it came time to leave, my husband headed for the door, minus the boots and in his stocking feet.

Of course, the wife was flustered. But my husband was adamant that he was to give those boots to her husband. Any other man might have been suspect of a tinge of “pay back” or perhaps even loftiness, but not Dan. Knowing him as I did then, and even now looking back, Iold-worn-out-boots-1013579-m realize that his act truly came from a generous heart. He had two pairs of boots–the old and the new. He chose the old.

Silly? No. Because that action stuck in my mind and our sons’ minds. We saw generosity in motion. Ever after we will remember the boot episode and be grateful God gave us a wonderful–full-hearted man for a husband and father. That’s probably one reason why our sons consider him their best friend and why all these years later, he’s still my hero.

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Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Connect with her here online at her blog, on Facebook, TwitterPinterest, and Goodreads.

Her novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman:

The Redemption of Caralynne HaymanHow far would YOU go to avenge a daughter’s cruel death? Cara is considered rebellious and inappropriate to befriend. Dayne is the apple of Elder Simmons’ eye—until he takes a stand against their teachings. Can his prayers and love reach Cara and show her the way to redemption? Will Cara realize God’s love and forgiveness before she goes too far?

Order your copy now!  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1938499948/

More posts and resources you might enjoy:

Dying to Live

Death by Wheat Squares

Compassion is Caught and Taught

The Family God Uses by Tom Blackaby

Sowing With Words

I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, but I love words. Not just stories or articles girl-on-phone-489957-mor devotions, but words in and of themselves. And everything–everything–has a backstory… Including the backstory. 😉 But sometimes, I’m so wordy, things spill out of my mouth before I’ve allowed them to swirl through my brain long enough to come out with coherence and effectiveness.

 

sydauthorphoto_smallThis is unfortunate for the words we speak truly do matter. They have the power to tear down or heal, to bless, to encourage. Today, Hope Spring Books author Sydney Avey shares her thoughts on sowing with words.

Sowing Words

Sydney Avey

Thanksgiving is a time to acknowledge the bounty we receive daily from God in the words He whispers to us. The seeds we receive to sow in His service vary according to the talent He has given us. Seeds that yield a harvest can be time or money, but they can also be words. Knowing my words have been used to challenge someone to think differently or feel blessed brings me joy. Words are my store of seed.

What do you see when you look into your seed bag? Have you stored up treasures that need to be scattered so they can root and grow in the hearts of others? Seeds are tiny things—words you write, notes you sing, pennies from your pocket or minutes of your time contributed to someone else’s success in life.

A blog subscriber emailed me and said, “I used your ideas in a devotional I shared with my church choir. The idea struck a chord across the generations.”

My pastor used these lines from my poem A Desert Meditation to illustrate a point in his sermon about priorities:

Like the Saguaro Cactus

Know that your roots in this world are shallow

let your reservoirs tap Living Water

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Seeds, small bits of wisdom that sow thoughts and ideas in others; how are they come by?

Spiritual Practice

In addition to spiritual insights, the Gospels offer wisdom that has practical applications. Consider this verse:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

The context for this verse is judgment. It tells us that as we show mercy, mercy will be shown to us. I also see in this verse a process for gathering words into thoughts that will bless others.

Writing poetry is a way to measure our experience by compressing thought, shaking together disparate ideas and watching words expand into new meaning. When we suspend judgment-conclusions we jump to about others or words we understand in limited context, we open our hearts to see and share the world in a new way, God’s way.

In the same way, singing old songs to new rhythms may feel awkward at first, but as you yield to the Holy Spirit’s teaching you may renew the vigor of an ancient word. Watch that word float on an unexpected note, like a parachute seed, to bless the listening ear of a hungry heart.

You may think you don’t have enough talent to write a poem, or join the choir, or mentor a child, but God promises to increase your talent and your influence as you take this step of faith and sow your seeds.

Here is a lovely verse for the season:

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

2 Cor 9:10 (NIV)

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Sydney Avey lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her workhas appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has studied at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Sydney blogs at sydneyavey.com on topics related to relationships, legacy, faith, and the writing life. Her novel, “The Sheep Walker’s Daughter,” ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6 will be released from HopeSprings Books on December, 2013.

Her novel is called The Sheep Walker’s Daughter (available Dec. 3rd!):

bookcover400x600A Korean War widow’s difficult mother dies before revealing the identity of Dee’s father. As Dee sorts through what little her mother left, she unearths puzzling clues that raise more questions: Why did Leora send money every month to the Basque Relief Agency?Why is Dee’s own daughter so secretive about her soon-to-be published book? And what does an Anglican priest know that heisn’t telling? The Sheep Walker’s Daughter pairs a colorful immigrant history of loss, survival, and tough choices with onewoman’s search for spiritual identity and personal fulfillment.

livingbygracepic.jpPaperback ISBN 978-1-938708-19-0 Kindle & Nook ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6

Let’s talk about this! Join the conversation here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Pause to consider some things that have been said to you, in person, through a text message, perhaps in a card or letter. Were any missives so special, you saved them? Tell us about it! How long might it have taken for the sender to craft the message? If a text, a few minutes. A card, maybe five. Five minutes that can mean the world to someone.

When we moved to Louisiana, I had a friend who often sent me unexpected cards. They were simple in content: “I enjoyed spending time with you today.” “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you.” “Hoping you’re having a great week.” And yet, they touched me deeply, because they showed me she’d been thinking of me, and she valued me enough to take the time to send me a note. (A big wave and shout out to my sweet KC friend, Sandy, who’s sent me cards, texts, and emails on numerous occasions as well. 🙂 )

Now consider, how can you be more intentional with your words? Might you send an occasional card to a friend far away or someone enduring difficult circumstances? What about your spouse or your child? Could you slip a note in their lunch or under their pillow letting them know you’re thinking of them and that you love them? Try it.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Love Letters

Taming the Tongue

Resources you might find helpful:

Woman to Woman by Edna Ellison and Tricia Scribner

Win a copy of Jewels for the Kingdom

I’m excited to announce, Delia Latham, my guest yesterday and author of nine wonderful books, is giving away a copy of her latest release, Jewels Delia3 - webfor the Kingdom. To be entered in the drawing, simply leave a comment on yesterday or today’s post.

Jewels for the Kingdomis the first of four separately authored Heart’s Haven e-Books:

Pia Peretti’s past could destroy her future. Thanks to her pre-Christian lifestyle, she can’t marry a believer, and she won’t marry a non-believer. Minister David Myers wants to help Pia release perf5.500x8.500.inddher guilt and trust that God has forgiven her…but the young minister is working through his own trial of faith.

After a failed counseling session with a wounded soul, David’s confidence is shaken. He accepts a new pastorate, and moves to Angel Falls to find a haven for his wounded heart.

Is it possible these two hurting hearts are meant to mend each other’s brokenness with some divine intervention?

This novel may be downloaded directly to your reading device through White Rose Publishing, a division of Pelican Book Group, or through AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Christian Book Distributors. Find information on all four Heart’s Haven novellas atwww.delialatham.net.

Get to know Delia Latham: 

Born and raised in Weedpatch, California, Delia Latham moved to Oklahoma in ’08, making her a self-proclaimed California Okie. She loves to read and write in her country home, and gets a kick out of watching her husband play Farmer John. She’s a Christian wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend, but especially loves being a princess daughter to the King of Kings. She loves Dr. Pepper and hearing from her readers. Contact her through her website (www.delialatham.net), blog, or Facebook author page.

 

Anxiously Awaiting

I’m quite good at throwing pity parties, and this fall and winter, I think I’ve excelled in this area. I’ve even invited others to join me. But leave it to 1129777_theres_a_party_2God to crash the party with some heart-illuminating truth. 🙂 Truth revealed through an ancient widow living in a time when life for widows appeared hopeless. After seven years of marriage, her husband died, leaving her destitute. She didn’t have access to welfare. No life-insurance policies or thrift plans to fall back on. So what was a woman to do? Why, isolate in her misery as she bemoans her situation to all who might listen, of course.

Hardly. She turned her eyes upward and focused on serving God in whatever capacity she could.

And God rewarded her for it by allowing her to catch a glimpse of the long-awaited Savior.

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him (Luke 2:36-39 NIV).

Notice how she spent her time. Not complaining or lamenting but instead, worshipping. She turned her eyes off herself and her situation and placed them on her true treasure–God. And God showed up when she was 84. After 50, maybe 60 or more, years of patient serving.

We all have obstacles, heartaches, trials that come our way. Constraints on our time. And when our energy wanes or our health fails or our schedule balloons, it’s easy to focus on what we can’t do. We might even be tempted to throw a pity party or two, but God expects more. He wants us to take our focus off ourselves, placing it where it belongs–on Him, anxiously awaiting His blessings, His guidance, His nudges.

More than that, He wants us to anxiously await His presence. Daily. Moment by moment.

I loved this fun yet thought-provoking post written by Billy Coffey. Pop on over to read about his missing Jesus (Thanks to fellow LBG hostess and co-author of our tween devotional, the Story of Faith, Joanne Sher for sharing this post on her FB wall!) then come back here to share an idea or two on how we can keep our focus and our hopes on our Savior, anxiously awaiting His presence each day and celebrating not the tinsel, lights, and presents but the miraculous gift of Immanuel. A gift so amazing, so life changing, that upon encountering God in flesh, prophet Simeon could proclaim:

Sovereign Lord, as You have promised,
 you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31     which You have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32.)

You can now dismiss Your servant in peace. Simeon’s life dream had been fulfilled. He longed not for wealth, health, prestige, or promotion, but instead, to encounter God Almighty.

Can you say the same? This Christmas season, where do your expectations lie?

Let’s talk about this. Anna and Simeon had one thing in common–something I believe enabled them to experience great joy despite trials and setbacks. They focused not on being served but instead, on serving. And they appeared to have but one expectation or hope–encountering the living God. As I read their accounts, I wondered how many of my frustrations and heartaches come from expectations not fulfilled. How might centering my expectations on Christ and Christ alone affect my day? My Christmas?

Join me at Living by Grace as we share ideas on how to focus our expectations not on the events surrounding Christmas but instead, the Person who initiated the season to begin with.

Some questions to ponder and discuss:

1) Can expectations hinder our joy, and if so, how?

2) What are some signs our focus needs readjusting?

3) What are some ways we can grab hold of joy when stress or trials abound?

4) How can you anxiously await God’s presence today?

(You might also enjoy this devotional titled Battle in the Night, written by one of the Proverbs 31 women, that provides tools for grabbing hold of peace and joy when our crazy thoughts attempt to plunge us in angst and despair.)

And make sure to come back to Living By Grace Friday and Saturday for a continuation of our in-depth look at the book of James.

And before you go, I wanted to congratulate Mary Preston for winning last week’s book give-away. Mary, pop over to Linore’s website to choose what novel you’d like her to send you. And I’ll be shooting you an email soon to get your mailing address.